UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: Summit talks delayed by dispute
YAMOUSSOUKRO, 27 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - A highly symbolic meeting of the five main players in the Cote d’Ivoire conflict was delayed on Monday due to a disagreement over the presence of French peacekeeping troops at the talks.
The meeting, scheduled to start early afternoon in the political capital Yamoussoukro, would have reunited for the first time in years on Ivorian soil President Laurent Gbagbo, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, and the two main opposition leaders Alassane Ouattara and Henri Konan Bedie.
The talks, scheduled to run into Tuesday, were to be mediated by interim Prime Minister Charles Banny, who organised the gathering.
But at around 5 PM, word emerged that Gbagbo did not want French peacekeeping troops in the conference room where the talks were to be held, demanding that Ivorian security forces stand guard instead.
As a result, rebel leader Soro, who says he does not trust the Ivorian army, refused to board the helicopter that was to take him to Yamoussoukro from rebel headquarters in Bouake.
"There is a problem concerning the finetuning of security," said Yapi Assa, spokesman for premier Banny. "The prime minister has always said that there is a problem of trust - that trust needs to be rebuilt."
Besides tackling thorny issues such as disarmament, national identity and presidential elections, the meeting was aimed at warming up relations between Gbagbo and Soro - the two main protagonists in Cote d’Ivoire’s three-year-old crisis.
It was not immediately clear whether the meeting would go ahead on Tuesday.
Banny was named by the international community late last year to head an interim administration tasked with overseeing disarmament and the preparation of presidential elections by next October.
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